Story Notes:

I would have never even begun writing this story if it wasn't for Espergirl and her FF VIII fic entitled "Balance of Power" (can be found at It is without a doubt the best fic I have ever read and really inspired me to have a go at creating a FF 8 fanfic of my own. The game Chrono Cross also inspired some elements of the main plot.

This is version 1.5 ; some Chapters have been re-edited (minor changes). In the future I intend to remove all unnecessary scenes (sorry there are still a few) and even downplay the role of one of the new characters a little, so the story will focus more on the main plot and characters we all know from the game. Also I want to remove all the typos and grammatical errors that managed to slip through the automatic spell check and my own checks. If you find any horrible mistakes feel free to point them out to me. Email me at ^___^ Also if you give wanna praise or criticize, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I just hope you'll enjoy the story.

Note: I would have never even begun writing this story if it wasn't for Espergirl and her FF VIII fic entitled "Balance of Power" (can be found at It is without a doubt the best fic I have ever read and really inspired me to have a go at creating a FF 8 fanfic of my own. The game Chrono Cross also inspired some elements of the main plot.

This is version 1.5 ; some Chapters have been re-edited (minor changes). In the future I intend to remove all unnecessary scenes (sorry there are still a few) and even downplay the role of one of the new characters a little, so the story will focus more on the main plot and characters we all know from the game. Also I want to remove all the typos and grammatical errors that managed to slip through the automatic spell check and my own checks. If you find any horrible mistakes feel free to point them out to me. Email me at ^___^ Also if you give wanna praise or criticize, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I just hope you'll enjoy the story.


Written by -Laguna-


Chapter 1: The Leap of Fate


"Aaargh! There's no stopping this thing---!!" Zell cried out, slamming his fist hard on the floor A fierce roar echoed, leaving Zell speechless. The sound was so loud it shook the whole place. "Oh man!!…i-is it coming o-over here?" Zell asked, not too sure if he wanted to know. Before anyone answered he withdrew even further in the dark corner they were hiding. "It seems to be heading the other way, towards the girls!!" Irvine gasped after glaring around the corner. "We've gotta do something, FAST!" -"Hold on Irvine!" Squall said when he grabbed Irvine by his shoulder. "Check your equipment first!" Another roar could be heard. Again the sound of it was so loud it sent a chill down Squall's spine. It stunned him for a moment. "Squall, man, come on! What are we gonna do?!" Zell uttered. He looked up at Zell. He was panicking. Squall wondered if it would be wise for his buddy to attack the beast again. Squall looked aside and saw the long shadow moving away from them, towards the girls…towards Rinoa. "We don't have a choice," He said, getting up. "Irvine, how's our equipment?" Irvine followed Squall's lead and got up, still staying in the shadows. He shook his head. "It aint good!" "We gave it everything we got in that last round, there isn't much magic left!" Irvine continued. "Nothing we did against it worked." He shook his again head and sighed. Irvine looked down. His hands were trembling, he apparently tried to stop it but couldn't. Squall motioned Zell and Irvine to follow him as he slowly stepped out of the hiding place. For one moment there was a total silence. Even the steam pipes of the Deep Sea Research Deposit seemed to quiet down for just that one instance. Squall glanced over his shoulder. Zell and Irvine were right behind him, ready to fight again if needed. Zell stepped forward and with a glare and a nod in Squall's direction he understood his part. "YO! Ugly!" Zell screamed across the hall, frantically waving his arms "We aint finished with you just yet!" Ultima Weapon raised its head, slowly turning around to face Zell. A nervous grin came across Zell's face. "Oh-kay…now what's the plan?" He said in Squall's direction. By now Ultima Weapon had fully turned around and was making his way towards Zell and the others. Each step it took violently shaking the floor. Squall tightened his grip on the gunblade and took a fighting stance. "Hey! Is that the plan? We can't beat it! It's even stronger than Ultimecia was!" Zell screamed as he took a few steps back and stood in one line with Irvine and Squall. It was approaching fast, but still too far away for an accurate hit with any magic, despite its enormous size. Squall examined his surroundings. They were standing at the end of a long hallway, behind them was nothing but a huge metal wall. Pipes seemed to be running everywhere. The light was severely muffled as there were but a few light sources along the stretch of the hall. At the end there was a bright light, but they'd have to get past a gigantic monster to reach it. Where is this? Squall wondered. …I can't remember this hallway from last time we were here… He re-focused his attention to the approaching Weapon. "Irvine, I have a plan," Squall said. "But it requires a precise shot…" Irvine took up a ready-to-shoot stance. "Just tell me what to hit. I'll make it happen." He told Squall, with a certain false sense of assurance to it. Squall pointed to a steam pipe half way between them and the Weapon. "I want you to shoot that pipe." Irvine glanced up, narrowing his eyes a bit. "Got it!" "Wait until it's next to it," Squall quickly said. "Then shoot a hole in the pipe at about the height of its eyes. Get the plan?" Zell grinned. "The high-pressured steam should hit 'em in the eyes! Yeah!" Irvine got down on one knee. He aimed at the pipe with as much precision as he could. "Come on…just a little bit further." He said softly. The beast continued to walk towards them as if by command. It stopped as it was exactly next to the pipe Squall had pointed out. Raising its head a bit, it slowly opened its mouth, only to release another loud roar. Squall turned to Irvine. "Now, fire!" On this command Irvine checked his cross hair on last time and recovered from the creature's last roar. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he pulled back the trigger. Zell and Squall watched the bullet as it was shot from the barrel of Irvine's gun. It was as if everything was in a state of slow motion. Squall could easily follow the course of the bullet despite its tremendous velocity. If this shot misses… He thought …we're toast. Ultima Weapon just stood there, not moving so much as an inch. Finally, to great relief of Squall there was a bang. The bullet had hit its intended target dead on. Hot steam was gushing from the hole in the pipe. "Okay, run!" Squall ordered. Ultima Weapon was screeching in agony from the steam that had reached its eyes as Irvine got up from the floor. They ran past the beast with all their might. Ultima Weapon was randomly moving about without even knowing where it was going, screaming in pain. Squall was almost hit by its foot but managed to jump aside before it came too close. When Squall reached a safe distance from it, he stopped to catch his breath. "C'mon! It's gonna recover any second now!" Zell yelled back at Squall. He was already far ahead, with Irvine running right along side him. Squall turned to the creature. He felt sorry for it. It looked so utterly helpless, vulnerable… One final gasp and Squall was running towards the bright light at the end of the hall again. He saw Irvine and Zell were practically there already. -How can they run so fast?? Am I so out of shape??- Squall wondered. He could make out a few distant shapes at the end. There were two…no three…people waiting for them. One of them was lying on the ground. Perhaps injured he concluded. Another one of them noticed Squall and the others and waved towards them.   A voice.   Squall couldn't yet make it out over the combined noise of the creature's agony and the steam. But as he ran closer and closer it became apparent it was a woman's voice. Irvine and Zell nodded and suddenly stopped to turn to Squall. -"The door!" Squall heard Irvine shout. "What?" Squall asked when he came in closer range of them. Zell pointed to a spot on the wall. "Push the button over there!" Nodding, Squall dashed with extra speed towards it. He glanced behind him; Ultima Weapon had regained its sight. It looked him straight in the eyes. Squall stared back. Whether it was the hot steam or not, it seemed more furious than ever before. Zell was nervously jumping up and down. "B-b-utton…push…now!" There was another fierce roar. Squall was caught by surprised and the shockwave of the sound made him temporarily lose his balance and he fell down on the smooth hallway floor. -"Get up Squall, close the door!" a woman's voice called. It was a familiar sound. Squall picked himself up from the floor, and nearly fell again when he looked at the approaching creature. The sheer speed with which it was coming at him was enough to stun even the best of warriors. Its legs were hardly even touching the floor. It didn't even make the floor tremble this time. Focus, focus! Squall said to himself. He narrowed his eyes and found a red button along the wall. He got fully up and ran without looking away this time. Squall ran so fast that he nearly smashed against wall when he reached it. There was a rather large red button among a few smaller ones. It was marked 'close'. Without a second thought Squall pushed the button and set the mechanism in motion. Within seconds a large metallic teeth door began to drop from the ceiling. A white line marked where it would close up. Squall was again gripped by panic as he realized he stood on the wrong side of it. A strange sound echoed through the hall. It originated from Ultima Weapon, but Squall couldn't help but think it sounded just like human laughter. -What's with all this running?- Squall wondered as he bolted off yet again. If he could just make it past the white line marked on the floor before either the creature reached him or the door closed up… "Squall!!" A chorus of voices yelled at the same time. The door was closing rapidly. -Why is the door so far away from the button…it makes no sense!- Squall thought. As he ran, he suddenly felt a wave of air just along side of him, followed by a loud clash of metal. Out of the corner of his eyes Squall saw the Weapon's sword hit the floor with astonishing force. A large crack appeared. Slowly water was pouring out the entire stretch of it. With the door almost closed and Weapon practically breathing down his neck, Squall made an all-or-nothing legs first sliding using the smooth hall way floor to its fullest. Ultima Weapon raised its sword up high, ready for the finishing touch. A strange grin appeared over its face. Squall slid for what appeared an eternity to him, the door ever getting closer to the ground. Its sharp teeth would surely be first to hit it. A gigantic sword came falling down at Squall, but stopped just before hitting Squall's face. The sharp end of the sword had gotten stuck in the door, temporarily stopping its downward motion… Squall's slide suddenly came to a full stop as he hit a small slope created by the Weapon's previous hit. Weapon braced itself and applied an even greater force to its sword, scratching a line in the large door as it went further down. The sound of it surpassing that of nails on a chalkboard by far. With one quick role to the left Squall managed to avoid certain doom. This time the sword sank even deeper in the floor, causing water to gush out everywhere. The monster left the sword stuck in the floor, and now raised its huge foot above Squall. There was no way he could get up a run away before getting hit. "Take cover!" A woman's voice yelled. Squall rolled face down to the now soaking wet floor and used his arms to cover his head. Suddenly there was an immensely bright light…an explosion could be heard. When Squall got up he noticed something had hit the ceiling just above Ultima Weapon. The greater part of the debris from the blast had fallen directly on its head and dust got in its eyes. It took a few steps backward and its foot had missed Squall completely. -"Ugh…come on…we can't hold this much longer" Zell yelled. Zell and Irvine had put a metal board under the teeth door and were trying to stop it from going down themselves. Squall ran the small stretch needed to cross the white-line with great ease, and performed a roll to get past the low hanging door. Seconds later the metal board cracked. Zell and Irvine jumped back. The door came crashing down this time, causing a cloud of dust to fly out when it finally reached the floor. Heavily panting, Squall leaned his head against the wall still eyeing the door. "Will it hold?" He asked. -"It will for now." A woman said. Squall turned and saw Quistis dusting off her body. "Everything okay?" She asked standing next to an exhausted Zell and Irvine. -"I'm fine…" Zell answered. "Just let my blood pressure return to normal, will ya?" Irvine nodded in agreement with Zell. Quistis ran her hand through her long blonde hair. "How about you? That was really cutting it close there Squall." He sighed. "Yeah…" Suddenly he looked up. "Where's Rinoa?" Looking down, Quistis crossed her arms. "She…she…was hit." Squall's eyes widened. He turned to the two shadowy figures a bit further down the hall. "Squall…wait, it's better not to look." Quistis spoke with a soft voice. But she didn't try to stop him.   He ignored her, ran closer and saw Selphie bent over Rinoa whom lay on the cold floor. The floor around Rinoa's body was red. She lay with her hands covering her stomach. Blood was all over her. Squall stopped next to her. "NO!" He yelled as he let himself fall on his knees. His voice echoed through the remainder of the hallway. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see her lifeless body. "NO! How can this be?!" He asked with a trembling tone of voice. He heard a faint coughing sound, and as he opened his eyes he saw Rinoa holding out one hand at him. "She's ALIVE!" Selphie exclaimed. Squall took Rinoa's hand, gently squeezing it. Tears were starting to form in his eyes. "I think she's trying to say something!" Selphie nearly cried out. Squall slowly picked up Rinoa's head with his other hand. A small stream of blood flowed from her mouth down her chin. -"Take it easy…I'm here." Squall assured her. The others rushed to Squall's side. Rinoa's eyes were still firmly shut, but her mouth was moving…she was indeed trying to say something. "What? I can't hear you," Squall said to her. He turned his ear closer to her mouth. -"Wake up sleepy-head!" She said.   <<------------------------------------------>>     It felt as though his body weighed at least ten tons as Squall slowly realized he lay in bed in his quarters. "Wakey, wakey." Squall heard Rinoa say. Birds were chirping outside. A cool breeze passed his face. Balamb Garden always was a nice place to wake up in. But Squall's eyes remained shut and he lay perfectly still. "Alright then." Rinoa said saucily, hands on her hips. "You asked for it." She pulled his sheets and uncovered Squall's feet. Rinoa rolled up her sleeves and stretched her fingers. "Let's see if you can resist my tickle torture." Immediately Squall's left eye popped open. "No, I'm awake, I'm awake." For a few seconds the unexpected brightness completely blinded him. But surely a figure appeared next to him. "Hey, good morning mister Leonhart, I trust you slept well?" Rinoa joyfully said. Squall crawled up with his back to the wall holding his hand in front of the light. He now opened both his eyes, slowly they began to focus. Rinoa stood directly next to him. Apparently she had opened up the curtains, and thrown open the window. As Squall regained normal vision, he noticed Rinoa's outfit in particular. She was wearing something he'd never seen before. It looked a lot like a female SeeD's formal uniform, but altered, more festive. He couldn't really describe it. But it looked amazing on her. "Well…actually," Squall said. "I had this weird dream." He rested his hand on his forehead. "Involved a lot of running…" Looking at Rinoa, he saw a warm smile appear on her face. "Was I in your dream?" Rinoa asked. "I was, wasn't I?" He sat up straight, swung his legs over the edge of the bed, and reached for the floor with his feet. "You'd rather I dream about another girl?" Squall replied looking up at her. Rinoa gave Squall a surprised look. "Hey, careful now," She said. "You're developing a sense of humor. This could be dangerous." Squall shook his head. "Whatever…" "There you go again with the 'whatever'-thing," Rinoa chuckled. She extended her arm towards Squall. "Need a hand getting up?" She kindly asked. "No thanks. Just give me a minute." He replied. Rinoa placed her hands on her hips again. "Hurry up already." Squall looked across the room at the small clock hanging on the opposite side of the door. She followed his gaze. "Yes, it IS breakfast time. So get up mister." Another cool breeze entered the room. Squall shivered a bit. No wonder He thought. The window's completely opened! Squall yawned and stretched his arms. He stood up and made his way over to the bathroom. The only things he wore were shorts and a smudgy old T-shirt. Shaking, he made it past the window. "So what was the dream about?" Rinoa asked, still standing next to Squall's bed. Squall turned the water valve at the sink in the bathroom and splashed some water on his face. -"It was actually more of a nightmare." He said, grabbing a nearby towel. It took him a few seconds to realize he was standing on the bathroom floor-tiles with bare feet. He quickly grabbed another towel and placed it on the floor. Rinoa moved closer to the bathroom door then turned her back to it. Wouldn't want to give him the wrong impression. She thought. Rinoa shrugged. "Well, don't they have a meaning sometimes?" Grabbing a comb, Squall peered into the mirror and focused his attention on his hair. It was a real mess. "If that is true," He said. "Then I think it told me I run too slow." A giggling sound came from the bedroom. Squall peeked and noticed Rinoa standing with her back to the door, holding her hands close to her mouth. "But I'll tell you about it later," Squall continued "I'll just get dressed now and we'll head down to the cafeteria." "Cafeteria?!" Rinoa pouted. "Did you forget?" Squall found his socks on the other side of the bathroom and tiptoed over there on the icy floor. He sat down on the small radiator attached to the wall. What did I forget? Squall wondered as he put on his warm socks. …Best remember fast He could just imagine her standing there, hands on her hips… "Well? Did you?" Rinoa impatiently asked Squall. Squall glanced around the bathroom. "Uhm, could you hand me my clothes? I think I left them on the edge of the bed." "Hmph, changing the subject are we?" Rinoa pouted, moving to fetch his clothes. She examined the pile of clothes. "Hey, are you gonna wear this outfit AGAIN?" It was the same outfit Squall wore during their struggle against the sorceress Ultimecia a few weeks ago. Squall's hand appeared around the corner of the bathroom door. "Yeah." He simply said. "Give me that." The clothes came flying across the room in the general direction of his hand. All but his belt fell on the floor. "Whoops, sorry!" Rinoa hastily excused. Squall groaned and gathered the pieces of clothing from the floor. As he was picking up the last item, he noticed a picnic basket next to the door. Ah ha He thought. "The picnic, of course I remember." Squall told her confidently as he proceeded getting dressed. The door to the Garden hall slid open. "I'll wait for you in front of the cafeteria then." Rinoa said picking up her basket. The Cafeteria after all? Squall thought Hmm, no, guess she needs to stock up on food first… Slowly the door closed again, reminding Squall of his nightmare. He dismissed the thought of it as he buckled his belt. The slugs of gunblade ammo he left stored in their little boxes. Squall walked towards the cupboard next to his bed, and found his black gloves there. His boots he found partly shoved under the bed. He sat down and put on his gloves and boots. The strange dream came to his mind again. Replaying the events of it, he zoned out completely for a few minutes. He awoke to the sound of students heavily arguing over something in the hallway outside. Oh right He realized. Rinoa's waiting for me. He walked towards the hallway and grabbed his jacket, hanging besides the exit. The door slid open again and a strange sensation came over Squall. "Am I forgetting something?" He asked himself, looking around the room. His gunblade was safely locked away in a small chest on a desk in the corner. Other than that Squall couldn't think of anything else he could have forgotten. He raised his shoulders. They were just going to have a picnic nearby Balamb Garden, he couldn't see why he needed to bring a weapon. -"Good morning Sir." A passing student said. She looked vaguely familiar to him, but her name didn't come to mind. "Good morning." Squall replied. He took a few steps forward and the door closed up behind him. -Oh, of course- He thought, turning to a digital pad on the wall next to his quarters. "Lock." He told it. A light blinked. The words 'please enter code' appeared on the small screen above the pad. Almost automatically Squall punched in 2-5-3. The light blinked again and the words 'code confirmed' now appeared. He walked off towards the Cafeteria.     <<------------------------------------------>>       As Squall walked down the Dormitory hall, he could hear the faint sound of clashing metal. Even early in the morning, the Training Center could be a busy place. It reminded Squall of the many hours he used to spend there. Perhaps after the picnic I'll go in for a few rounds He thought. There weren't many students in the main hall; the first classes of the day had already started. And the total number of students was still very low since many had died during the battle between Balamb- and Galbadia Garden. But things were returning to normal. People went on with their lives, some already starting to forget what had happened. How close the world came to destruction. Footsteps clicked against the floor behind him. -"Hey Squall." Quistis said as she walked up beside him. She wore her instructor uniform and was carrying a pile of books and paper. "Don't you have a class to teach?" Squall asked. She shook her head. "No, I start the second period." Her arms tightened around the books she was holding. "It'll be my first class since I was deemed unqualified..." Squall remembered the conversation Quistis had with Headmaster Cid a few days earlier. Due to a lack of Instructors she had been re-instated. -"You'll do fine Quistis." Squall assured her. The same surprised look Rinoa had shown now came over Quistis. "Why thank you Squall." She said. "That doesn't really seem like something the old Squall would say though." Quistis smiled. "Guess Rinoa's having a positive effect on you." Squall shrugged. "What-" "Ever..." Quistis giggled as she finished the sentence before Squall could. They walked into the main hall of the Garden and saw Rinoa standing in front of the Cafeteria. Pacing about impatiently. -"Hello Instructor." Rinoa greeted with a smile. "Oh please," Quistis said as she nudged Rinoa with her elbow. "You can call me Quistis." Strange odors hung in the air. Squall traced the scent back to the Cafeteria. Hmm, wonder what's being served? "Aw okay." Rinoa sobbed. "But I DO think Instructor sounds better. Don't you?" Covering his forehead with his hand, Squall got the definite feeling he was about to be standing in the middle of a girl-talk conversation. "Hey, wow, where did you get those clothes?" Quistis asked, surprised at Rinoa's stunning outfit. I knew it… Squall said to himself. "Well," Rinoa started, then she turned to Squall. "Uhm, hey, why don't you go check up on Zell and Irvine? I think I saw them in the Cafeteria." -"Okay." He uncovered his face and looked up. Walking in the direction of the Cafeteria the scent became more and more repellent. Whatever was cooking sure had been over-done.     Glancing across the room Squall noticed Zell, Irvine and Selphie sitting at the table by the big window. There was a small line waiting to get food. A few students sat at the tables. Zell was yapping, whilst Irvine and Selphie sat close together on the other side of the table hardly paying much attention to his rants at all. "So anyway, there I was against this huge cactus-like monster," Zell said. "I told it to get lost or I would booyaka it so hard it would kiss the moon." His body sagged. "That's about the time it 'ker-plunked' on me." "Hey Squally!" Selphie exclaimed cheerily as she noticed him walk up. "Grab a seat, won't ya?" She pointed at Zell. "Pssst, don't mind him Squall, he's in a weird mood today." Zell launched a few pieces of sprouts at Selphie. "Hey I hate these damn vegetables." "GROSS!" Selphie screamed. She noticed most of the people in the Cafeteria turned to see what the commotion is about. Quickly she put on a smile. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Nothing to see here folks." "Why would anyone eat sprouts for breakfast?" Squall asked, drawing a very confused look. Chuckling, Selphie noticed Zell giving the lunch-lady an annoyed glare. "He didn't finish his vegetables yesterday. So now instead of hotdog he gets sprouts!" Selphie explained to Squall. A pack of brown beans came flying towards Selphie. "Oh yeah," She said wiping most of them off. "I forgot the brown beans…" "Now, now. Food fights are sooo immature." Irvine said as he threw what was left of his hotdog at Zell. It missed him and landed on the floor. Slowly Squall grabbed a seat and sat down, not really sure he wanted to be seen with them. "HEY!" Zell yelled as he leaped on the ground to pick up the hotdog. "Don't EVER waste a hotdog like that!" He scolded at Irvine. Irvine picked up his hat from the table. "Well, I was only saving this cutie here from a food-throwing maniac." Zell turned around, pretending to look for someone. "Cutie? Food-throwing maniac?" Irvine yawned and slowly moved his arms to the other side of Selphie's shoulder. "You had better not be doing that old yawn-and-hug trick Irvine. That's so old." Selphie warned him without turning around to look. Quickly Irvine yawned again and crossed his arms. Shoot, He thought. Mission failed. Squall raised an eyebrow when he saw how Zell was cleaning the hotdog thrown on the floor with his sleeve. Selphie too was closely watching him. "You are NOT going to eat that, are ya?" Wiping some dust off the hotdog, Zell opened his mouth as far as he could. Drooling, he moved the hotdog closer. With his free hand he shoved his plate with vegetables to the other side of the table. "Who needs that stuff, when I gots me a hotdog!" He said. "EEW!! A spider!!" Selphie exclaimed. Everyone in the Cafeteria turned to see what the commotion was this time. They all shook their heads as the realized it was only Selphie again. Nothing to worry about, false alarm. Zell paused for a moment, his eyes trying to focus on the hotdog he held just under his nose. Irvine grinned. "Where's a camera when you need one?" -"There's a spider on MY hotdog?!" Zell blurted, trying to inspect every inch of the hotdog. Irvine smacked his forehead. "No, there is no spider. Selphie was just kidding." Not a second later, Zell threw the hotdog high up in the air, and caught it with his mouth. A few choking sounds later he swallowed it whole, eyes tearing, slamming his fist on the table in the process. "Although Selphie probably thought those little hairs on it looked like a spider." Irvine laughed. Zell's eyes went wide and he grabbed his throat. "Water!!" He yelled and burst away from the table. -"Oh, and I always enjoy the extra hot sauce on my hotdogs!" Irvine yelled in his direction. "So Squall, what's up?" Irvine said as he casually sat back and enjoyed the good view of passing female students. A sudden smack on the back of his head made him fall forwards. His face landed in Zell's plate of beans and sprouts. Laughter echoed throughout the Cafeteria. "Serves you right." Selphie told him. "First making moves on me then staring at other girls…" "I'm sowwy." Irvine mumbled with his face still in Zell's breakfast. Selphie patted his head and giggled. "Hey, stay there for a while, why don't ya?" His thumb was raised up high. "Yes ma'am…" He mumbled. "…By the way, I think these beans are giving me gas." "So Squally, what's up? You've been kinda quiet." Selphie said as she moved her chair a bit further away from Irvine. He turned around and saw Rinoa was still talking to Quistis at the Cafeteria entrance. "I have this picnic with Rinoa." He said. He didn't exactly seem enthusiastic about it. Selphie clapped her hands together. "Oh! That's sooo romantic." She exclaimed. Irvine raised his hand. "Uhm…I have a question." He said. "Could I maybe, possibly get up now? I can't breathe." -"Well…okay." Selphie replied. She pulled Irvine up straight by his shoulders. As he sat back in his chair, Irvine took a deep breath. "Whoa…fresh air. I forgot what that was like." "Squall was just telling me about how he and Rinoa were going on a picnic." Selphie told Irvine, nudging him. Irvine raised an eyebrow and waved his hat in front of his face. "Man, I smell like beans." Irvine's face lit up. "Oh! Would you like to go on a picnic with ME later today?" -"No way." Zell said as he ran back and plopped down in his chair. His face was all wet. Selphie got up and hugged Irvine. "I would." She giggled. "You were right though, you DO smell like beans." Waving at Quistis and Rinoa, Selphie walked away. Of course wanting to share the good news with her friends. "See ya later guys." She said. -"Hey! If you're gonna eat my vegetables, at least finish it." Zell yelled as he looked at his plate. Irvine ignored him and looked around. "Hmm, now is my chance." He noticed a group of girls sitting at a nearby table and got up to join them. Zell scratched the back of his head. "So…just you and my now, huh Squall?" Squall sat staring out the window. … Zell's body sagged. "Well at least say SOMETHING." Squall thought for a moment and turned to Zell. "Hey, where's that girl with a pigtail you liked?" "Okay, say anything but THAT." Zell sighed. "She, uhm…left me." He grinned. "She said I was too immature…can you believe that?" "No. Can't imagine where she got that idea." Squall said as honestly as possible. He then stared at Zell for moment. "W-what? I got something stuck between my teeth?" Zell asked, feeling uncomfortable under Squall's gaze. -"No that's not it." Squall replied. "I was just thinking, you were with me and Irvine when we explored the Deep Sea Deposit, right?" Nodding, Zell affirmed him. "Yeah, and we sure did kick that Weapon's ASS! Booyaka!!" Zell noticed Squall's face grew serious. "Why do you ask? Not to reminisce I suppose?" -"Is it possible we overlooked a room, or rather hall-way of some sort?" Squall asked. Scratching the back of his head, Zell pondered for a moment. "Dunno really. I didn't fully figure out the mechanism behind the steam and stuff, so I guess it's possible." Zell said. "Should we go check? I bet Selphie could fly us there in the Ragnarok." -"No. I just had this vivid dream about a hall there. Was probably just that, a dream…" Squall replied. Zell sagged. "Dude, that reminds me of my dream of being Ward in that desert prison." He uttered. "THE most boring dreaming one person could ever have." Squall shrugged. "At least you didn't dream you were a moron." Raising an eyebrow, Zell wondered what Squall meant by that. What moron? "Oh!" He exclaimed. "You mean Laguna? Hehehe!" After suddenly banging his fist together, Zell jumped up and down his seat as if he had a rocket up his ass. "Man, I can't sit still for too long or I'll go nuts!" He explained. He got up and started punching the air. "Don't you miss all the fighting and stuff, Squall?" Squall got up as well. Zell took a few steps back and covered his face. "Zell?" Squall asked. "Is something wrong?" Slowly Zell uncovered his face again. His face glowing in a reddish color. "Phew, for a second there I thought you were gonna hit me for saying that." He said with a relieved tone of voice. -"No, I'm gonna eat some breakfast now, I hope." Squall assured him. Rinoa was still talking to Quistis, and Selphie had joined their discussion as well. But Squall's stomach was churning and he was determined to get some food. He was starving… Sighing with relief, Zell sat down again. "Yeah, it is kinda stupid to hit a person just because that person asks if you miss fights." Zell contemplated. "I mean if you think about it. That's like Irvine calling for stricter gun control laws…hehe." "Hey Squall? How about you and me go in for a few fights later at the Training Center?" Zell asked. "I know you haven't been training much lately so I…uh…Squall?" Zell looked up and saw Squall moving towards the Cafeteria entrance. "Hmph. Guess some things never change." He said. Zell reached for his 'breakfast'-plate and quickly threw it in the thrashcan next to the table. -"HEY!" The lunch-lady yelled across the room. "I saw that young man! No hotdogs for you this week." Zell moaned and groaned, banging his head against the table repeatedly. "I'm a SeeD," He said to himself out loud. "SeeDs deserve hotdogs!" He looked aside and saw how Irvine got water splashed in his face by a several girls at the same time. Hmm, guess I'm not the only one having a bad day. He thought.   "Ready to go?" Squall asked as he walked up to Rinoa. She gave him a slightly annoyed look. "I am in the middle of a conversation here dear." -"Naw that's okay Rinoa. You two go and have your picnic." Selphie assured her. "Tee-hee!" "Yeah, that's fine. Have a good time you two." Quistis added. She examined the books she was holding. "I still have to prepare for my class in. I'll catch you later." She said and searched across the Cafeteria for an empty table. A soaking wet Irvine was just retreating. As he walked past Squall and the girls he threw up his hands. "Don't ask." He said then jogged off towards the dormitories. -"Need any help with that Quis?" Selphie said pointing towards the books Quistis was holding. Quistis nodded and handed Selphie a few of the larger books she carried. "Now let's find a table. Preferably not too close to Zell." She said giggling; noticing Zell was banging his head against the table over and over. "He seems to be…causing permanent brain damage at the moment." Squall glanced at the picnic basket Rinoa had put on the floor. Just as he tried to open the lid, Rinoa slapped him on his hand. "H-ey, wait 'till we find us a good spot." Rinoa said trying to sound angry. A churning sound came from Squall's stomach. "Oh dear," Rinoa laughed. "Best hurry."     <<------------------------------------------>>        The sun was shining brightly as Squall and Rinoa walked over the fields near Balamb. -"Here's a good spot." Rinoa said as she put down her basket. She picked a spot in the lush green grass just next to a small tree. From there they could overlook a large stretch of the beach and the beautiful blue ocean. Wave after wave came rolling across the beach... Besides a few chirping birds, there weren't any other creatures in sight. "C'mon Squall, sit down already," Rinoa ordered. "And help me unpack." Squall moved to Rinoa's basket and grabbed a few packed sandwiches from it. With a thud Squall quickly sat down. Finally! He thought I have some food. Rinoa picked up some more items from her basket and sat down next to Squall. -"It's beautiful, isn't it?" She said as she looked up. They sat under a clear cerulean sky. Squall handed Rinoa a sandwich and took one himself. He took a few large bites and it was gone. -"Wow, you really were hungry." Rinoa laughed. She stared at Squall for a minute. He sat up straight and looked out across the sea. -"Is something bothering you Squall?" She asked, tilting her head slightly. A sudden gush of wind flowed through his hair. He narrowed his eyes a bit. "I don't know," He said. "But it feels like there's some unfinished business." Rinoa moved to sit on her knees behind Squall's back. -"I know what you need." She said. "A relaxing massage!" He shook his head. "No thank you." Above them a flock of seagulls flew by. -"Oh come on." Rinoa said as she hung around Squall's neck, gently hugging him. "You're so tense…" They both stared at the seagulls flying out over the sea until they were out of sight. Rinoa sighed and got up, reaching for the cans of soda she brought. -"How many times do you need to save the world before you'll relax?" She asked, plopping down next to him again. Squall opened his can of soda and took a few sips. "As many as times necessary." He said with a serious look. Playfully punching Squall in the stomach, she grinned. "That's so noble of you." -"My knight in shining armor." She continued. "Yeah…" He mumbled. Rinoa rested her head against Squall's shoulder. "Hey Squall?" He turned his head slightly. "Yes?" -"Is Laguna really your father?" She asked. "I overheard you and Quistis talk about it yesterday." "Yeah. I believe so." Squall said with a worried look. "But he never actually told me this." "Just that he wanted to see me after we defeated Ultimecia." Squall continued. "But I'm not sure I want to see him…" With a smile Rinoa assured Squall whatever he thought was best was okay with her. Suddenly a shot of pain ran through Squall. It felt like someone was pounding his head with a hammer. He cringed and moved his hand against his forehead. "I think I'm coming down with something." He said. "I don't feel so good. Maybe I'd better go." Rinoa put her arm around Squall. "Just a bit longer…" She whispered. "You know once this moment has passed it will never come again…" With a nod Squall agreed. His head still aching. "And Seifer…" Squall realized. "What about him?" -"I think he knows he was wrong. I doubt we'll get any trouble from him anymore." Rinoa tried to assure Squall who still wasn't fully convinced. "Last I heard, he was staying in Fisherman's Horizon." "As long as he just stays there." Squall said, taking a few more sips from his soda. -"You worry too much." Rinoa concluded. She pointed at a small cake she had brought with her. "Be a dear, and hand me a piece of that cake I got from the lunch-lady. It looks delicious." Rinoa said looking at Squall with puppy dog eyes. Squall sighed and bent forward, simply grabbing the whole cake. "There you go." He said. Surprised by a sudden nudge from Rinoa, Squall raised an eyebrow. "What??" Giggling, she shook her head. "You're supposed to feed me pieces goof." She said. "That's what couples do." "Yeah well, I forgot to read the manual on this." Squall explained. He broke off a small piece and fed Rinoa. "Happy now?" He asked. -"Hmm, food's excellent. Lousy service though." Rinoa laughed and turned to Squall. -"It wouldn't hurt to smile." She said as she noticed his troubled look. She shrugged and tried to imitate Squall's expression. "Hey, cut that out. I'm just not used to smiling, okay?" He explained. Rolling up her sleeve, Rinoa turned to Squall. "I'll just have to work on that, now won't I?" "Sure." Squall said slightly grinning. "Just don't expect me to turn out as hyper as Selphie." Rinoa laughed, and snuggled up even closer to Squall. Images suddenly flashed through Squall's mind. They were vague and dark like old photographs, yet at the same time so very clear. Clearer than memories or dreams. He sees a figure looking at him from a distance. This figure closes with each image until he or she is almost within reach. A laugh. Everything goes dark but the same twisted laughter keeps echoing. "Hey, Squall you don't look so good." Rinoa said waving her hand in front of his face. He shook his head and realized he was still sitting next to Rinoa in the fields near Balamb Garden. As he stood up a blue circle appeared on the ground around him. It flashed brightly and began swirling. What?! Terrified, Rinoa backed away from Squall and in doing so tripped over a small stone. Squall reached for his head with both hands. The sudden headache had returned, far worse now than before. He had to fight a severe pain to stay focused. "What's going on!" Squall yelled trying to make sense of everything. He turned to Rinoa. She lay on the ground staring at Squall with wide eyes. Tears appeared . "Squall, what's happening to you?" She demanded to know. The air around Squall's body lit up dark blue. He stretched his arms in front of him, closely examining them. -"Is Ellone doing this?!" Rinoa asked. "Ugh…I…don't…know…!" Squall barely managed to say under the excruciating pain he felt. He tried to walk towards Rinoa. She got up from the grass and extended her arm towards him. He could feel the air pushing at him as if on the verge of imploding. "Grab my hand Squall!" Rinoa shouted, tears now rolling down her face. He could see her mouth move but couldn't hear what she was saying. A blinding light emanated from where Rinoa stood and in the blink of an eye she disappeared right in front of Squall. Then the blue circle widened on the ground around him and became white. Streams of blue light now whirled around Squall, like tentacles growing upwards to the sky. As he looked down, the very ground he stood on faded and Squall fell through the void it left. Everything turned black.

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